Q What Windows program do you recommend for easy photo editing? My primary goal is to improve skin tones to give my photographs a more professional look. My hobby and my weekend passion is photography (children, wildlife and still life) so I really want to take the final product up a notch.
A Adobe (ADBE) Photoshop Elements is an easy-to-use, much less expensive version of the industry standard, Photoshop. Photoshop Elements 11 retails for a street price of around $80. Given that photography is your passion, you may want to upgrade to the full version of Photoshop someday. Using Photoshop Elements now will make you familiar with the layout of Photoshop, its workflow, and how to use many of the tools. For these reasons, it is my strongest recommendation for you and I believe it is well worth the investment. Learn more and download a trial version at http://www.adobe.com/products/photoshop-elements.html.
There are free editing programs out there that are worth a look. GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is another free program. It is meant for more advanced users than the other programs listed here. I've tried GIMP and never really warmed up to it, but that doesn't mean that you won't, and the price is certainly right. Download at www.gimp.org.
In closing, for you personally I recommend you spend the $80 on Adobe Photoshop Elements 11. Other readers may find the free programs are all they need.
Q I recently purchased a Neuhaus Labs T-2 vacuum tube amplifier, which I first saw on your site. In researching speakers in the $500 range, Axiom's M2v3 looked very interesting, and I am also considering the Arx A1b since you liked the match of the Arx leaf tweeters with the T-2 vacuum tube amplification. I want to spend around $500 or less. What are my best choices?
-- M.W., Pennington, N.J.
A There is a real treasure trove of incredible $500-and-less speakers out there right now. I will list some speakers that I have tested with the T-2 and know to be a good match. (Readers curious about his tube amplifier can see it at www.neuhauslabs.com.)
Both the Axiom M2v3 ($338) and Arx A1b ($299) are very precise, detailed speakers that mate well with the warm, lush sound of the T-2. The Arx is only available in a black cabinet, while the Axiom is available in dozens of finish combinations, courtesy of their custom shop. See Arx at www.theaudioinsider.com and Axiom at www.axiomaudio.com.
Polk's outstanding LSi7 bookshelf speaker, which has an MSRP of $799, can be purchased from Amazon on closeout for only $399, which is a tremendous bargain. The LSi7 speakers have beautiful, genuine wood side panels in a choice of ebony or cherry wood. See them at http://www.polkaudio.com/products/lsi7.
Bear in mind that with the Arx A1b, Axiom M22v2 and Polk LSi7 you will need speaker stands, adding $50 to $100 to your final cost. This brings the final cost close to the $499 price of the Arx A3 towers, which could well be the best match for you. The A3s will have the same physical footprint as the bookshelf speakers, but play louder, sound fuller, and have more bass.
Contact Don Lindich at www.soundadviceblog.com and use the "submit question" link on that site.